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Posts Tagged ‘lemon verbena’

Lamb Shanks

Alright, I know, I know.  I realize that a mere 4 months ago, I was begging for this, but I’m really wishin’ for a rainy day now.  So I’ve been doing the rain dance, turning off the sprinklers, and making “winter food” for dinner every night, hoping to bring forth the rain.  Despite my efforts, however, my herbs are turning brown (maybe I shouldn’t have turned off those sprinklers), and we’re practically sweating at the dinner table, choking down stews and soups!

But, hey!  I wanted to make lamb shanks.  And so I did!  I friend of mine works part-time at the restaurant, and helps his dad run their farm in Sacramento part-time.  He brought me a grocery bag full of goodies last week, including a huge bunch of lemon verbena.  I love lemon verbena, as you may remember.  He gave me so much that I’ll be able to use it for at least a few different recipes.  But I’ve been wanting to try braising with it.  My original idea was to make a quick fish fumet (a stock made with fish bones) using the lemon verbena leaves as flavoring, and then do a quick braise with some halibut or rock cod.  I was likening it to the use of lemon-grass in thai food.  But lemon verbena leaves are so tender that I was afraid their flavor would dissipate quickly.

Well, the day I had designated for my “lemon verbena braise” was so down-right grey and dreary, that I just couldn’t fathom a light dish.  So lamb shanks it was!  Boy, did it turn out fantastic.  I added ginger to compliment the lemon verbena and the two went together beautifully.

Lamb Shanks with Lemon Verbena and Ginger
yields 2 servings with some leftovers for soup, etc.

If you want to serve one lamb shank per person, look for lamb shanks that weigh about 1 pound each.  If you just want to let the meat fall off the bone and have leftovers, look for shanks that wiegh 1-1/2 pounds each.  Also, you can ask your butcher to “crack” the bone, whereby they will saw through the bone, allowing the marrow to be exposed, adding richness and deliciousness(!) to the dish.

If you’re very concerned about removing excess fat, you might want to make this dish a day in advance, then refrigerate the whole thing.  The fat will rise to the top and solidify over-night, allowing you to easily lift it off the top and discard.  Then simply re-heat, covered, over medium-low heat until warmed through.

  • 2 lamb shanks totaling about 3-1/4 pounds
  • 2 small red onions cut into a large dice
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
  • 2 fresh red tomatoes, or  4 pieces of canned whole tomatoes, cut in half
  • 7 leaves of lemon verbena
  • 1/2-inch hunk of ginger, sliced
  • 5 medium garlic cloves
  • salt

The day before cooking, salt the lamb using 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt per pound of lamb.  The next day, place a large stew-pot over medium heat and add 2 Tablepoons of pure olive oil or vegetable oil.  Brown lamb shanks until they are golden on each side.  Remove lamb and place on a plate. Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat. Turn the heat to medium-low, and add the onions, whole garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt.  Sweat down until they are translucent.  Add tomato and ginger.  continue to cook for about 5 minutes allowing them to soften slightly.  Add the stock and simmer.  Place the lamb shanks back in the pot, cover, and simmer very slowly for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.  The cooking time will vary, depending upon how large the shanks were.  The meat should be tender enough to fall off the bone.

And while I didn’t manage to snap any pictures of the braised shanks, I did manage to snap a picture of the yummy soup I made with the leftovers….

lamb shank soup

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Heavens to Betsyyyy-y-y!  She’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever known.  Heavens to Betsy, won’t you come on home?

Are those the right lyrics? You know I’m notorious for just coming up with words that make sense and singing them at the top of my lungs in the shower/car/kitchen/restaurant/pool/um…pretty much everywhere.  I like to think I have a song in my heart.  And while my beloved might agree about the “song in my heart” stuff, he might also point out that singing the only-line-I-know over and over and over again can drive even the most loving/gentle/kindly/patient person a leee-tle bit crazy.

Anyway, I digress.  But I’ve had “Betsy” in my head ever since I made the fatal decision to leave the leftovers for our dinner hosts.

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What?  Why?  You left it all there?  But I wanted some more!  Will you make it again?  When?

That’s what ensued at midnight when, upon arriving home from dinner with friends, Scott discovered that I had infact packed up the remaining sorbet and deposited it in their freezer for them to enjoy.  Then we proceeded to have a little conversation about etiquette, and how proper etiquette does not include bringing a contribution for a dinner gathering and then declaring that you’ll be taking all the leftovers back home with you…

It took a couple tries and I’m still not convinced that he really gets it.  But really, I’m pretty sure he’s just being stubborn.  I’ll make more.  I promise.  No really, I will.

It was the perfect dessert for full bellies on a hot night.  Really light and really refreshing.  (And possibly really, really good with a splash of gin?!  Why, yes!  I think so!)

Lemon Verbena- Rose Geranium Sorbet adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld

To churn and eat this sorbet right away is glorious.  Spending time in the freezer made it fairly icy, though still delicious and refreshing.  I’ll have to do a little research to determine if my ratios can be adjusted so that it remains scoop-able after a stint in the freezer…(I just talked to the pastry chef at Zuni and she said that this type of sorbet simply doesn’t store well…so just eat it within a few hours—you won’t regret it!  Or, better yet, how ’bout trying it as a granita?)

The recipe also suggests substituting or adding other herbs such as: tarragon or mint…I’ll surely try them!

If you don’t know where to find Lemon Verbena, ask around at your local farmer’s market. You’ll likely find it there.

  • 3/4 cup loosely packed lemon verbena leaves, washed
  • 1/4 cup *rose geranium leaves, washed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups ice cold water

Place the leaves and the sugar into a blender and pulse a couple times, stopping to scrape down the sides.  Add just enough water to enable the mixture to blend, and continue to puree for about 15 seconds.  Once the leaves are fully ground, add the remaining water and lemon juice.  Blend again for another 15 seconds.  Pour the liquid through a very fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, and discard the pulp.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to fully chill.  When chilled, churn in an ice cream maker.

*Rose geranium is a type of scented geranium, and it’s actually not a geranium at all, but a Pelargonium.  While the leaves of these scented geraniums (Pelargoniums) are edible, the leaves of true geraniums are not.  There are tons of varieties of scented geraniums (Pelargoniums) such as lemon, chocolate, rose, apple, nutmeg, and peppermint.  When you rub your fingers against the leaves, there will be no mistaking that it’s a scented geranium (Pelargonium), as they are very aromatic!  But if you are unsure, ask around at your local nursery.

See pictures of the flowers and leaves from a rose geranium (Pelargonium) plant below.

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